Angry Nerd Video Game Review: Maneater
Maneater is a very unique game, and one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences I’ve had with a game in a long time. From Tripwire Interactive, we have our first real open-world SharRkPG. When I first heard about this game, I was intrigued, and I knew that I would have it on launch day. After all, I am the Prince of Sharkness, and I would be doing a disservice not only to myself but to all of the folks that count on me to be up to date on all the latest shark trends. As a matter of fact, I had the option of picking this up or getting the Resident Evil 3 remake, but you know how I’m a sucker for independent creators, no matter how much I wanted to play RE3.
The basic premise of this game is that you are following a shark hunter named Scaly Pete, a cajun fisherman born and bred on the bayou. He is a large, barrel-chested man, powerful and fierce and instantly dislikable. Scaly Pete is the subject of a “Deadliest Catch”- style reality show called Maneater on the Port Clovis Channel that follows his exploits and also sees him attempting to groom his son in the ways of the bayou fishermen the way he was groomed by his own father. As the story progresses, you get to check in on Pete and his son Kyle as they go about their business.
Oh, and did I mention that the Maneater in-game TV series is narrated by Chris Parnell? It’s brilliant. He narrates what you do as you travel through each area, highlighting your successes, and sarcastically commenting on your failures, although he does occasionally offer words of encouragement at lower levels. One other really cool thing is that he has specific lines of dialogue for each and every landmark location you find. Folks who like Easter eggs will love these, because of course there is the obligatory Rick and Morty reference (although it isn’t overly obvious, you have don’t have to be more than a casual fan of the show to get it), as well as references to Cthulhu and SpongeBob SquarePants, among many others.
In the opening tutorial level, you are playing as a large female bull shark, and you are led through the game’s many features as you stalk prey, evade hunters, attack boats, and cruise the waters looking for your next meal. Eventually, as you attack humans and alert the local hunters to your presence, you must do battle with them, and this is what leads Scaly Pete to make his way to you, eventually capturing you. I won’t go into too much detail as to what happens next, but I will say that when you next take control, you are playing as a baby bull shark with a massive wound on its right side, stretching from dorsal fin to mouth.
You will learn to fight, feed, and evolve yourself as you traverse first through the swamps of Louisiana until you reach the open ocean as you grow from a baby shark (doo doo doo doo doo doo) to a teen, adult, elder and so on. Each level that you travel to will have its own unique threats and challenges to overcome. As you explore, there are various quest points to find and each of those will give you experience points that will allow you to get bigger, faster, and tougher and also unlock different abilities. These quests can include eating license plates hidden around the level (an obvious nod to Jaws), finding landmarks, or completing tasks such as eating a certain amount of prey while competing with other predators. You will also begin to harbor grudges against certain species until you have leveled up enough to dispatch them with little difficulty. For me, it took over a dozen tries to finally defeat an alligator and once I did, I got really cocky as I had to go back to the first couple of areas to fully complete it and found myself taunting the gators who dared attack me.
Each level, after you complete the main quests, throws an apex predator at you, and depending on your level or your experience or skill with the controls, these can be extremely difficult to overcome. I had particular trouble with some of the faster creatures. Overcoming them will unlock special upgrades you can make to your shark; everything from your teeth to your organs is upgradeable, allowing you to survive longer on land (which is a key to completing certain areas), move faster when you’re injured, destroy boats with ease, and more. I love the combat system, and for a game where you play as a shark, there is a compelling story.
After a certain point, you have to confront humans, and this will cause hunters to come after you and as you level up you must take on more and more of them in order to continue. They aren’t the only threat, however, because as you destroy more boats, eat more people, and stymie more hunters your level of infamy grows. At each level of infamy (which is not directly tied to your level as a shark) a named hunter will come after you and you must defeat them as well as the other hunters, but doing so will unlock a new and unique evolution, and this is the only way to obtain them.
I recommend doing as much as you can to unlock as many evolutions as you can as you play through so you can experiment and see which fits your playstyle the best. For me, I prefer the bone teeth (which are remarkably like a Dunkleosteus) and the bone plating on the rest of my body to more easily destroy boats. Each evolution has its own perks, and you can combine various evolutions on your shark to maximize their effectiveness. These evolutions also change the look of your shark and are admittedly really awesome simply from an aesthetic perspective. Certain evolutions are only available at specific levels, which is typical of an RPG, as well as the fact that you cannot simply apply all of your evolutions at the same time. You have one slot each for jaws, head, body, tail, and fins and you can put whatever evolution you have unlocked in each slot, but only one per body part. You also have three slots to upgrade your organs, but many more options to fill those slots. I also recommend looking closely at the specific proteins and minerals you need to level up your organ evolutions. Personally, I recommend always keeping the sonar evolution, because it will help you easily locate specific prey, alert you to predators that are above your level when you’re just starting out, and help you find secrets as you explore new areas.
That brings me to another point – this game isn’t scientifically accurate; sharks do not have the ability to use sonar, but it’s a great addition to the game in which you seek out albino creatures because they contain mutagen that allows you to evolve yourself. Sharks also do not propel themselves around on the land, seeking out prey, nor do they triple jump onto bridges. Like with any game, Maneater requires a certain suspension of disbelief. As much as I love my scientifically accurate games and movies, I’m also willing to live in the world created by the developers and writers. I always say if you’re going to bend the rules of reality, just make sure you stay consistent, and Maneater does just that.
I highly recommend this game, and at just $40, it costs much less than your typical new-release game. I was able to complete it 100% in just under 23 hours of gameplay, so I am very much looking forward to some DLC, expanded levels, and maybe pit your skills as the apex predator of the ocean against some more formidable threats. Maybe the Deep Ones as you explore the Mariana Trench or the Laurentian Abyss, or perhaps take a page from the Monsterverse and explore the Hollow Earth to battle creatures we’ve only seen in our nightmares.
This game is for anyone who likes RPGs, likes sharks, enjoys seeing nature take revenge on the humans that have desecrated and disrespected it, anyone who enjoys movies pitting man against nature, anyone who likes open-world exploration, and challenging gameplay. If any of these things pique your interest, pick up a copy of Maneater as soon as possible. It’s immersive, fun, and the story really draws you in and makes you invested in the life of this shark. Maneater is absolutely the apex of the games I’ve played this year.